Matt Obradovich is living proof that hard work not only makes up for a lack of natural ability, but also makes certain abilities come more naturally.“I don’t consider myself overly athletic or overly good at specific things naturally,” said Obradovich, a Timmins native who has called Greater Sudbury home for the last four years.
“I think hard work gets it done and helps you grow.”
It has also opened up doors at the post-secondary level for the 17-year-old outfielder, a product of the Baseball Academy and the Sudbury Voyageurs, who announced his commitment last week to Laurentian University for 2020-21.
Taking part in a video press conference with Baseball Academy owner/director Jean-Gilles Larocque, who also serves as an assistant coach at LU, Obradovich admitted that joining a U Sports squad seemed more like a far-off dream than an achievable goal, until last season.
“When I first joined the program, I didn’t feel confident in my abilities,” said Obradovich, currently a Lockerby Composite student. “I didn’t feel like I stood up to a lot of the other skill sets around me. It wasn’t until probably last year that I really felt good about myself, I performed well and I thought I can actually do this after high school, if I really want to.”
While his speed, arm strength and overall athleticism continued to improve, the greatest change may have been between his ears.
“The biggest thing for me, and I owe it to G (Larocque), is the mental side of baseball,” Obradovich explained. “At the beginning of last year, we focused a lot on mental performance and focus and staying in the game, and I think that really helped me develop other physical attributes about my game, as well.
“I think I have always kind of realized what needs to be done. I know that if I need to grow in this area, then I need to focus on this and I need to eliminate other distractions, sort of hone in on what needs to be done.”
Asked what Laurentian is adding to its program by signing Obradovich, Larocque was quick to reply.
“Grit, man,” Larocque said with a smile.
A little leaguer in Timmins who was unaccustomed to the larger playing field at Terry Fox Sports Complex in Sudbury, Obradovich was new to the outfield on arrival and struggled on defence initially.
“He grew into the position,” Larocque recalled. “It wasn’t given to him and he wasn’t oh, I’m a deer out here, I’m amazing. He worked for every single thing he had and he came back, where a lot of people would have probably been like, I’m not having a good game or a couple of good games, I’m just going to call it quits. That’s him, that’s his personality, and I think that’s also his family surrounding him, and he has great support with him, which I think is huge.”
A trip to West Virginia and Pittsburgh last year proved an ideal showcase for Obradovich’s rise from ninth in the order to the lead-off position.
“I’m guessing he hit .700 or .800 in both tournaments, hitting balls at will, basically, and he was playing well defensively,” Larocque said. “It was great to see all that hard work pay off for him.”
This past winter, Larocque said, Obradovich was throwing 86 or 87 miles per hour from the outfield at his training facility on Lorne Street.
“That’s him showing up every day at practice, that’s him buying in,” Larocque said. “That’s doing things some days, like for some people, eating their vegetables, that they don’t want to do, but he still did it, with enthusiasm. And that’s the other thing he’s going to bring to Laurentian, is that enthusiasm, because he loves the game. That’s contagious for me as a coach, to be around him, and I’m sure it is for his teammates, as well.”
While he’s partial to centre field, Obradovich will be happy to play either corner come fall.
“I’m pretty comfortable anywhere,” he said. “I think I can perform well wherever they put me.”
That statement, too, shows just how far the youngster has come in just a couple of years.
“When Laurentian started its varsity team two years ago, I remember going to the first game and I honestly did not think, at that point, that I would ever be playing for Laurentian,” Obradovich said. “I don’t want to say that it wasn’t a goal for me, but it just didn’t seem viable. It’s really awesome to be a part of that now, after being there from the very start.
“I just want to thank my coaches, teammates, my family and everyone who has helped me through the last four years. I don’t think I could have made it here without my teammates. That’s what I think has really pushed me, trying to battle my teammates, to see who could be better in certain areas.”